Just Go Do It. Now.

RootsTech 2014 focused heavily on story. Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, told us in her keynote that oral history can be lost in just three generations, if not passed down in a deliberate way.

Three generations.

The name of this blog is “No Story Too Small.” I firmly believe that no story is too small to be recorded and to be cherished. I wish I knew the answers to Judy’s questions. I wish I knew if my great-grandfather could swim or what my great-grandmother’s favorite toy was.

You might be like me and keep saying, “Yeah, I really need to <x>.” Interview parents and other relatives. Label the photographs. Write down some stories.

We know we should. We know we need to. Yet, we don’t.

We allow ourselves to fall into the trap of telling ourselves that we’re too busy. We allow ourselves to think that the task is too big. We allow ourselves to think that we don’t know how or that we don’t know where to start.

We allow ourselves to be complacent.

We have to stop that. Now.

Grandma Johnson was the keeper of the stories in our family.

Grandma Johnson was the keeper of the stories in our family. She was also a good cook.

We’ve all seen the sad reminders of how short life truly is. I lost a cousin last fall; he had been ill for years, but his death was actually sudden and unexpected. Todd Hansen of BYUtv’s “Story Trek” told about a man he interviewed and got his life story; the man died the next day. A good friend of mine lost his father earlier this week.

Those losses seem to happen to someone else. Until they happen to us. And they will happen to us.

The task of recording your family’s stories may seem monumental. The key is to start. That’s all. Just start. But you have to do it, and you have to do it now.

So stop reading this post and go do something about it right now. Go call a relative and ask what was their favorite birthday present ever. Pick up a photograph and label it. Write down how you learned how to drive. It doesn’t matter what you do or what format it takes — just go do it. (As soon as I publish this, I’m going to email this photo to my sisters to see if they remember what the occasion was that they were cooking with Grandma.)

Seriously. I mean it. Stop reading this and go do something about your family’s stories. Right now.

15 thoughts on “Just Go Do It. Now.

  1. Jo Henn

    I interviewed my Dad over the course of a decade and a few years ago put together his answer to those of my questions he’d answered –birth to wedding day– into a self-published book (Troy Bookmakers made it easy) and had a run of about 50 published and given out as family gifts at Christmas. He loved it, as did his grandkids (his sisters said we got their birthdays wrong). My Mom absolutely refuses to answer any questions about her childhood. I’m trying to collect stories about their marriage now. And those stories my family history research is conjuring up.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      That’s awesome, Jo! That sounds like something that will be treasured for years to come!

      With your mom, have you tried asking generic questions, like “what was your favorite subject in school?” It may not glean much in terms of biographical data, but it would be something.

  2. Cheryl Miller

    I’m in the process of trying to write down some of my memories and unfortunately I have no parents or grandparents left to question. I am also going to ask my brothers and sister to give me some of their memories as I am the oldest of 7 and I know their memories are different than mine. Thank you for this reminder.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      I, too, am without grandparents. My parents are both still living and I’m going to be asking them a *ton* of questions soon! (There’s an ulterior motive for me taking them out to breakfast on Monday 😉 ) It’s also important to record your own stories. What was the first funeral you went to? How did you learn how to drive? Seems like we always leave ourselves out when we’re recording the family stories!

  3. Amberly

    Thank you for this post. I read it yesterday and have thought about it several times. In fact I have thought about it so many times I had to come back to thank you. I have three children who are 15, 12 and almost 2. I often fall into the someday trap when it comes to interviewing living ancestors. Your post was a good push to a nudge I have been having to buy a plane ticket to visit my grandparents and spend a weekend asking questions and interviewing them. While I didn’t buy that ticket right after reading your post OR do something right then… I plan to make all of the necessary phone calls to family this weekend to choose a date for my trip. So thank you.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad that you’re making arrangements for your trip! In the mean time, think about recording/writing a few stories about *your* childhood? Your children will appreciate (if not now, they will in years to come)!

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      I was leaving a comment on your blog as you were leaving a comment here 😉

      And, yes, it’s often a matter of making time to do these things. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Karen Bruynell

    Amy, this is so true! One reason I’m doing the 52 Ancestors challenge is to capture these stories. My family who have helped me blog to date have been so great in telling me stories. These stories are more valuable to me than any jewel! Better yet, most folks love to tell me the stories! I’m sharing this on my face book. You really motivate me Amy and happy Valentines Day!

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Isn’t that the great thing about the stories?! They can draw in people who say they’re not interested in genealogy. Suddenly everyone is interested.

  5. Cindy Freed

    Amy – Your post really jumped out at me. I’m so concerned with 2x great grandparents I’ve forgotten to document my own stories, my sibling’s stories, my parent’s stories. You’re right, soon enough I’ll be the third or fourth generation back and my stories will be lost if I don’t write down the events I’ve experienced or those passed down to me. Excellent post!
    Thank you!

    P.S. And the photos! I’ve taken a million pics and very few have names on them. You’re right. I gotta get to work!

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      We all seem to do that, Cindy. We focus so much on those long-ago generations that we tend for forget the more recent ones — including our own!

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